My Story: Robbie Thomas
Just over 11 years ago, I was living on the streets of Los Angeles with nowhere to turn. I spent my first month in a shelter bedridden because I was so malnourished and could barely move. There was a counselor at the shelter that persuaded me to take a free computer course offered by Goodwill Southern California. I didn’t want to because I didn’t have any experience with computers and felt out of place, but I went, though reluctantly.
After much encouragement from a coworker at Goodwill®, I applied for a clerk position and was hired as an administrative assistant for the VP of workforce development. After my first or second year with Goodwill I received the Employee of the Year Award at our annual Hopes Jobs and Future event.
I have been with the company for 11 years, and am currently an employment service specialist. I work with people with disabilities, assisting them in finding jobs. I also work with employers to help them see past the labels and negative stereotypes and realize the true potential, and recognize the valuable member of society in front of them.
As someone who has firsthand experience living on the streets, I know the hardships and low points that many Goodwill clients face daily. When teaching a class the first question I ask is, “Do you know where you’re going? If you don’t know, then you’re looking at it.” The purpose of this is so they don’t focus on their past but put words to their future and empower themselves to take the action necessary to transform their life.
I make it a priority to personally get to know each client, their story, and give them the faith to believe in themselves regardless of their challenges. I tell them to focus on their abilities and not their disabilities. The extra paperwork and after hour calls are worth it as long as I know I’m making a difference. Recently, I was given the Angel Award for recognition from my coworkers for going above and beyond.
I feel very blessed and grateful for the chance that Goodwill Southern California provided me through their programs and employment opportunities. Not only did they change my life, but they gave me the opportunity to work with many unique individuals so that I could guide them to a better future.
I came to Goodwill without any job experience and am thankful that I too can now help others transform their lives through the power of work.
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